Very sorry to see you have changed your mind. I hope you continue reading/learning. There are a lot of good folks here.Well after highly considering getting my first boat, the fact is I just dont feel safe by myself. I'm glad there is such a positive consensus about sailing solo but I just can't have peace of mind by myself.
That said, and for future reference, I wish I would have seen this thread earlier. I have lived aboard just over 4 years (new years day was my 4 year anniversary!). I am a very short middle-aged female, btw.
I was quite disappointed with some of the comments, such as "man up," etcetera. There are a lot of places men can go without even remotely having to consider personal safety. Not so for women. Too bad some men do not see that. Then again, a fish cannot see the water in which it swims.
That said, your concerns are understandable. When I first moved aboard, I too, was concerned about safety. This was especially so when my boat was docked at a private slip in an area that wasn't the greatest. I did eventually find a really good marina with keyed access and awesome facilities. Even so, I no longer use them late at night due to a couple of encounters I had with some homeless people who broke into the ladies room.
While the marina I'm in is in a very low crime area, the biggest problem we have is people breaking into our vehicles and in some cases, stealing them. Though, I think this is an issue for land dwellers as well.
As for being safe sleeping on the boat? The biggest danger arguably comes from the water (i.e., someone coming in via a dinghy), since land access is gated. The first year I was here, we had a couple of thefts near the very end slips. My boat was/is quite a ways in. As a female, imho, that is something worth considering.
When I first moved aboard, I always closed everything up. Now days, I only close stuff up when it is cold. And that is just to keep in the warmth!
Also, I am very picky about inviting anyone I do not know well to my marina, much less my boat. This is especially so because my boat is in plain view from the shore, so it is really easy to see where I'm at. The only real thing, btw, that I don't like about being so far in.
Also, while the marina is gated, I asked other dock mates not to let anyone in if they say they're coming to visit me. Yes, even today, after four years. Tell them they need to give me a call, and I'll go let them in. Speaking of dock mates? I got to know my dock mates. So that really helped to set my mind at ease.
In the end, and if you do decide to shop around again, check out the marinas. Take a look at how well they're cared for. Check out the conditions of the boats. And the facilities! That will tell you a great deal with regard to the type of people you may encounter. Also, talk with the people. If you encounter other live aboards, ask them how they like it. What they think of living at that particular marina. And finally, consider parking. Is it well lit? Patrolled? Close? Or dark and far away?
My marina is arguably the nicest marina in the bay area. And we do have a fairly tight sailing community. That is, we all know each other, keep an eye out for each other. Both live aboards, cruisers, and weekend sailors.
And finally, even if you do decide to try moving aboard, remember, it is a different environment. What that means is that it will take time to get used to, to acclimate. It's like moving into a home near a train track. At first, the train wakes you up everytime it goes by. Over time, you end up sleeping right through. This is our natural way of protecting ourselves, by the way. Once our subconscious realizes something is safe, it files it away... no need to pay attention (wake up) when a train goes by because it does not present a danger.
For me, today, four years down the road? My boat is my home. I feel very safe. And I absolutely love it. Ymmv.